COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids are just trying to stay afloat.
Amidst an injury crisis, the likes of which Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja has never seen in his nearly two decades as a coach and a player, Colorado are trying to simply hold their ground in the standings until reinforcements return over the next few weeks.
They’ll try and doggy-paddle their way to another unlikely result on Saturday when they host Toronto FC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live). Colorado hope they can get more points, following an impressive 1-1 draw on Sunday in Houston where the Rapids nearly stole three points and claimed the majority of the opportunities despite missing several key starters due to injury.
“I cannot think about all [the injuries] all the time,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “I need to think about the guys who put on a great performance in Houston. I need to think about the guys who lined up in Houston and did well.”
With nine points and a 2-4-3 mark through their first nine games, the Rapids are just two points out of the playoff picture despite losing nearly their entire roster to injury or suspension at some point during the young season. But the good news for Pareja is that several important players are on the verge of returning.
Midfield maestro Martín Rivero is expected to make his first start of the season on Saturday following a three-month absence with a broken foot, and Pareja is hoping to welcome back strikers Edson Buddle and Deshorn Brown on Saturday night as well. Pareja said both players will feature in his 18, although Buddle is unlikely to start following a recent recurrence of inflammation in his troublesome right knee.
“I don’t think I’m starting tomorrow,” Buddle told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “But I’m ready to play.”
However, one more injury was added to the list this week as midfielder Hendry Thomas is expected to miss “a few weeks,” according to Pareja, with a strained hamstring that he suffered in the second half of Sunday’s draw in Houston. Pablo Mastroeni is expected to start in Thomas’ place, although Nick LaBrocca or Nathan Sturgis could figure into the midfield as well.
“I have to think about the young ones that are stepping up and helping,” Pareja said. “I have to think these young guys that are coming in and saying, ‘you know what, I’m ready.’ I’m building on that part.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.